Great Expectations: Transforming Order Processing
Technology has empowered your customers with new buying opportunities, and their expectations have never been higher. It’s now unreasonable to expect buyers to locate a components spreadsheet or catalog document, sift through the data to find the parts or products they need, and then order them. Customers want a quick, easy, frictionless experience. In this highly competitive landscape, speed, savings, and a positive perception of the buying process are essential. Younger customers, in particular, have little to no memory of a pre-digital world and expect a fast and immediate transaction. Businesses driven to succeed in this environment must make their customer experience of order processing a top priority.
Modernizing order processing
Order processing has progressively been modernized, but the rate of change has increased in recent years. Related automation has steadily evolved to be faster, more reliable, and more efficient over time. Amid proliferation of the internet, suppliers replaced paper catalogs and postal mail with spreadsheets and emails. For the order process to further scale and provide real-time results, digitized catalogs and networked communications are needed. Additional automation and analytics will yield further benefits with the result being excellent customer experiences.
Competitive companies can scale. Scalability requires commitment to a level of automation that has given rise to software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms specifically designed to support the buying experience customers expect. Such platforms also meet the scalability and reliability requirements of sellers running a business in a competitive market. They also must conform to security and auditability standards to meet both in-house and government regulations. Although some companies attempt to maintain such operations in house, it’s generally not worth the time and effort to manage such a platform internally. Dedicated business with experience in the development of secure, complex, reliable distributed systems can provide catalog management, order processing, and other supply chain services allowing suppliers to focus on their core competencies.
There are far-reaching benefits for companies to upgrade their order processing operations. The automation required to address current market conditions is not limited in value to current economic concerns. It creates a solid foundation for subsequent development initiatives to add other labor saving mechanisms to the supply chain to reduce the need for manual intervention. It promotes the ability to add controls and reporting required to satisfy auditors. It also allows event-driven analytics to be leveraged in tracking, optimization, and prediction activities that will further improve the pipeline.
Recent pressures on—and disruptions to—the supply chain have further enticed customers to take advantage of the fastest, most streamlined processes available. A customer who is under pressure to complete an order cannot be expected to locate a “catalog” document (spreadsheet, PDF, etc.), search it, and then accurately copy and paste the data into another spreadsheet or document. Even if the customer does follow such a process perfectly, the data in the “catalog” document might be out of date and there is no traceability or auditability in the process. It is manual and resource intensive, costly from both a time and resource perspective to both the seller and the buyer.
Modernization of order processing will inevitably continue as a product of technical advancements and reduced costs to computing. But for companies that have not updated their processes, perhaps a more significant concern is the changing demographics of buyers, who perceive traditional ordering experiences as unnecessarily complex, cumbersome and inefficient. Simply stated, the younger generation expects order processing to be as straightforward as making a basic, personal online purchase.
Understanding your customer
Few customers are patient with dated ordering processes and the trend will continue as younger workers fill positions as buyers. Millennials have fully entered the workforce while generation Z are emerging.
Michael Dimock, president of Pew Research Center, describes the change in perspective: “Technology, in particular the rapid evolution of how people communicate and interact, is another generation-shaping consideration…Millennials came of age during the internet explosion… By the time [Generation Z] were in their teens, the primary means by which young Americans connected with the web was through mobile devices, WiFi and high-bandwidth cellular service. Social media, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment and communication are innovations Millennials adapted to as they came of age.”
Customers of younger generations are predisposed to adopt processes that match their experience: the opportunity to immediately identify a product, see its benefits, purchase it, and have it delivered in a seamless way. These younger generations also tend to avoid talking on the phone. Traditional customer service has included a phone call with an articulate, sensitive customer service representative. To the modern buyer, if a call is required at all, the customer service experience is immediately viewed as negative. Companies with a dedicated platform to manage customer orders digitally while minimizing such “out-of-band” interactions are at a clear advantage.
Innovating to meet demands
Traditional manual processes incur unnecessary costs and complexities that reduce an organization’s ability to remain competitive. These simply do not align with the current business climate or the expectation of buyers familiar with alternatives. This situation will drive new innovations as the industry continues to transition to automated solutions that reduce human involvement and allow otherwise unattainable scalability and flexibility. Forward-thinking organizations will be able to respond to new market conditions and meet evolving customer demands.